DENVER — Utahns won't be seeing Barack Obama visiting the Beehive State this election season, a disappointed but understanding state delegation was told Wednesday morning.

Mark Gilbert, a longtime Obama campaign leader, said that with the Obama campaign "expanding the map" of presidential battleground states to up to 18, a change from three or four in 2000 and 2004, there just won't be time to visit a state like Utah.

"Like Utah" means a very red state where the political reality is that Obama won't be winning.

But other surrogates likely will visit. And just last week Obama opened a campaign headquarters in Salt Lake City.

When delegates asked if Obama could at least make a quick visit to Utah, Gilbert said: "To be honest, that's not going to happen."

Still, Obama did visit Utah in August of 2007 and his wife, Michelle Obama, came the day before Utah's Feb. 5 presidential primary earlier this year. Obama won Utah by 18 percentage points over Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.

A number of Republican presidential candidates have been in Utah this year — admittedly several not holding public events but coming to raise money.

Gilbert is a Bellsouth executive who lives in Florida but has a home in Park City. He has been a Utah-backer within the Obama campaign for some time, said Wayne Holland, Utah Democratic Party chairman.

Don't be depressed by Obama's lack of a large lead over GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Gilbert said.

"This is not a national election, but a state-by-state election" because of the Electoral College system of presidential candidates winning a state and then getting the number of college votes equal to the state's members in Congress. So, Utah has five members of Congress and five Electoral College votes. It takes 270 Electoral College votes to win the presidency.

Unlike recent presidential elections where party nominees fought over three or four states like Florida, Ohio or Michigan, Obama is in play in mid-Atlantic states, in Western states like Montana, Colorado and Nevada, said Gilbert.

"We are even working hard in Arizona, the home state of the Republican nominee — and when have (Democrats) done that?" he asked.

"We call it the 270 point solution. We feel good about Indiana, Iowa is close. Joe Biden will help in Pennsylvania," Gilbert ticked off states that had no chance of going Democratic just a few years ago. (Sen. Joe Biden, D-Delaware, is Obama's pick for vice president, and will address the Democratic National Convention tonight. Biden was born in Pennsylvania.)

"There are different paths to win this thing," said Gilbert.

But it is clear that path doesn't go through Utah, which hasn't voted Democratic for a presidential candidate since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

Gilbert said the Obama campaign "will take the high ground" in fighting McCain. But Obama won't sit back and take the hits that Republicans are throwing at him. "Watch TV next week," during the Republicans national convention in St. Paul. "You will see some sharp comparison" ads — a code name for negative advertisements.

Gilbert said Obama's lead in national polls by a few percentage points is misleading. Many young people 18 to 30 do not have ground line telephones, and cell phone numbers aren't listed or easily available. Accordingly, it is tough for pollsters to get an accurate read on young people.

At one Wisconsin college, a good grassroots campaign before that state's primary registered a high percent of students, and Obama took that voting precinct with 62 percent of the vote.

That same ground war will be waged by Obama "in all 50 states," and young voters will be key to an Obama victory in November, Gilbert said.


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